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Historical Organs in the Český Krumlov Region


Not so many regions in the south of Bohemia are so rich in historical organs of as high-quality as the Český Krumlov region. Many of these instruments with their sound fill the sacred buildings that are unique in an architectural and artistic way and are the part of the most valuable monuments of the Late Gothic of South Bohemia.

Organum Hydraulicum, Baroque organ of  A. Starck in Zlatá Koruna

At the court of the Rosenbergs that was well-disposed towards all kinds of art, the personalities in the instrument-making field were supported. Already at that time two organs were placed in the St. Vitus church in Český Krumlov. Unfortunately, nothing was preserved except many archival references, of the work of probably the most significant organ-builder Tomáš Greviš from Český Krumlov who worked at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Organum Hydraulicum, large organ of  L. Breinbauer in Vyšší Brod The oldest example preserved example of organ-building art is the body of an Early Baroque organ case with several original pipes dated around 1640 in the church in Přední Výtoň village, that was renovated at least two times since it was founded. According to execution of the case we suppose that the original builder was a significant organ-builder from Pasov, Andreas Putz whose best instrument is preserved in the monastery church in Schlgel, not far from here on the other side of the Austrian border.

In fact the oldest instrument preserved in its original state is the instrument of the organ-builders Nicolaus Christeindl and Bernhard Wollers from České Budějovice. It is hidden behind the great altar in the church of the Panna Maria and Boží Tělo (Holy Virgin and the Sacred Heart) of the Minorite Monastery in Český Krumlov. Two manual instrument with 22 sound stops comes from 1679 - 1682 and in the character of its sound could be heard last in the aftermath of the Renaissance period although with an absence of typical Renaissance stops and with an unobtrusive pedal it belongs to the accomplished organ-building of southern Germany in the Early Baroque period.

Organum Hydraulicum, single-manual organ in Zátoň church Another unique, this time High-Baroque instrument was preserved in the north choir in the monastery church in Zlatá Koruna. Its builder was a significant representative of the north Bohemian organ-building workshop Abrahan Strack from Loket. Two manual instrument with 22 stops were made between 1698 - 1699. The case of the great organ was daringly built for that time - it was constructionally arranged into two cases set on a joint base on the sides of a window in the north front side. The case of the organ is placed in the gunwale of the choir. Plaster and sculptural decorations were made by Filip Rambler from Freistadt in Upper Austria. This instrument is not big in comparison to the church space but it sounds really remarkably and it also brings here unusual sesquialtera stop that we do not meet in the organs of this region even in the later Baroque period.

The organ-building was influenced, as well as other fields of art in this region, with influences from Upper Austria and workshops in Pasov. The evidence of these influences is an organ situated in a choir above an entrance to the St. Vitus Church in Český Krumlov. It was built by an unknown builder in 1716 who probably came from the Egedachers´ organ-building workshop in Passau. We can infer this from architectural and artistic details used on a organ case. This instrument was originally placed in already abolished church of St. Jošt in Latrán and it was moved to its current place at the time of reforms of emperor Josef II. This happened thanks to the people in the town council. In contrast with above mentioned organs there is the surface of the organ case which in accordance with the High-Baroque practice decorated with marbling in several tints and white polished carved acanth decoration. This is impressively very complex from the architectural point of view intensified with a prevalence of a vertical line, which opens to the sides and sets both organs on each other into one case. This is a factor that was very unusual at that time in organ-building in South Bohemia. With its sound and character of soft intonation this instrument reflects some of the influences of Italy and noticeably also in the organ-building in Austria - for example the presence of the Piffara stop in the great organ.

Boletice, church of St. Mikuláš, view of interior at organs, historical photo, foto: J.Seidel

All of the above mentioned instruments were reconstructed a short time ago or they were preserved by professional conservators - Vladimír Šlajch from Borovany and Dušan Doubek from Jihlava.

Another very valuable instrument is in much worse state - it is two manual organ with 18 stops from the Kájov Pilgrimage Church that is located several kilometres away from Český Krumlov. Thanks to many irresponsible interventions and disrepair of many parts the organ is unfit for use.

..So now we can not admire the beautiful sound of this organ but we can at least see the monumental organ case decorated with gilded carving work, figures of angels and coat-of-arms of Christian Guschl, an abbot of Zlatá Koruna, who furnished the monastery with it. Let us remind you that the first part of this organ was made by the organ-builder Christoph Lachenwitzer from Freistadt, but most of the work was made by Andreas Niederle from Nepomuk in the north of Bohemia. He finished his work in 1744. The pipework contains several stops of the original instrument of this church from 1642.

Also a small organ for processions was preserved in the collections of Český Krumlov castle from the beginning of the 18th century that was made in the workshop of the organ-builder Caspar Neumann from Mirovice. In the Baroque period similar instruments were quite usual part of the choir equipment and they were used especially during pilgrimages. Today only a few of them were preserved in different stages of preservation in the Český Krumlov region.

In the second half of the 18th century the very busy workshop of Pantočků from Dačice worked in this region. Unfortunately, nothing of their work was preserved. Only an archival photography of probably their the biggest organ on the great choir of the St. Vitus´ church in Český Krumlov from the beginning of this century remains its the appearance.

From the middle of the 18th century the organ-building workshop of Semrádů from Sedlec became very famous in this region. The work of Fridrich Ferdinand Semrád is represented with one of his best instrument - an organ of five stops from 1750 placed in the choir of St. George´s Castle Chapel in Český Krumlov. Its sound culminates with a sharp mixture of thirds that is also typical also for his other organs. A speciality of this instrument is the possibility to connect all stops of a great organ using just one pull out of a very clever connection of the stop levers and quite an usual application of a short octave with semitone keys F sharp and G sharp.

Horní Dvořiště, church, organ, foto: Libor Sváček At the last third of the 18th century an organ-building workshop of Richter from Freistadt worked in the region of today´s Austro-Czech border. The Rococo two manual organ with 12 stops placed in St. Jiljí´s church in Dolní Dvořiště was preserved from their workshop. Today the return and stylistic reconstruction of a similar organ into the renovated Baroque pilgrimage church of Panna Maria Sněžná (the Virgin Mary of Snow) by Svatý Kámen (Maria Schnee) is under reconstruction.

In the 19th century the organ-building workshop of Frantz Jentschke and later Franze Jüstel worked in Český Krumlov. This workshop kept the tradition of classical organ-building until the end of the sixties of the 19th century. Except for an organ placed in Černice, all of the other preserved organs from this workshop are located outside of the Český Krumlov region.

A period of so-called Romanticism organ-building is especially represented with professionally and acoustically excellent instruments of high quality that were built in the workshop of the Breinbauer firm from Ottensheim, Upper Austria. Its representative examples are places in St. Máří Magdalena church in Chvalšiny (Josef Breinbauer), in the monastic church in Vyšší Brod and in St. Nicholas church in Rožmberk nad Vltavou (Leopold Breinbauer). Also a large three manual organ of organ-builder Heinrich Schiffner with a pneumatic system with 47 stops, that is placed in the St. Vitus church in Český Krumlov, is also a valuable historical monument of its time.

Many of above mentioned instruments are played during the concert of organs at summer time. A very unusual way on how to acquaint people with many of the historical organs is a programme called "Organum hydraulicum". This programme is organised by the agency Versum and the organ player Michal Novenko takes part in it every year. Those taking part in this programme, go on the boats from Vyšší Brod to Zlatá Koruna on the Vltava river and every day of their journey is finished with a concert of organ in some church by the Vltava river. That is the way to restore to life some of forgotten instruments. The participants and organisers of these programmes initialise the recuperation of the historical organs and they also support it by their own means.

Organum hydraulicum, organist Michal Novenko during performance in Zátoň, foto: Lubor Mrázek

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Further information:
Historical Organs in Český Krumlov